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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The reveal that Gibson is a French soldier who took a uniform and dog tags from a dead British soldier to make his escape paints his introduction (where Tommy helps him bury a British soldier, heavily implied to be the one he took the equipment from) in a different light. Was he simply trying to cover-up? After all, a naked dead British soldier would raise suspicion. Or was it atonement for robbing the dead man of his possessions and identity? Or both?
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  • Americans Hate Tingle: The film has caused controversy in France regarding the considerably downplayed role of the French army and the heavy focus on the British Expeditionary Force, the RAF and and the Little Ships flotilla. Historically, the French defense of the city was crucial to slow down the Germans' advance, gaining time and allowing for a greater number of soldiers to be successfully evacuated (it wasn't all due to the "miracle" order of Adolf Hitler to halt the German offensive around the city, since that offensive resumed). In the end, although the French soldiers don't have much screentime (their most prominent presence is a soldier who takes the identity of a dead British soldier so he can get on one of the boats, though he's still portrayed reasonably sympathetically), and the fact that Winston Churchill unofficially ordered to prioritize British soldiers over them to "bring the army back home" is brought up, they are paid some due respect by Commander Bolton, who stays behind to wait for them as they evacuate, and the fact that they are holding ground against the Germans is also mentioned, but it still felt like lip service, especially when French extras and historians from Dunkirk noted how Christopher Nolan praised the heroism of the city's defenders on set. The film has been largely praised in France for its technical brilliance and drama and did good business there, but there is still a feeling that a great occasion to brilliantly subvert the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys trope has been missed.
  • Angst? What Angst?:
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    • This film does not shy away from the trauma the individual soldiers are going through, but Tommy recovers from his entire squad getting wasted in the span of about fifteen seconds pretty quickly and doesn't dwell on it or mention them ever again. In all fairness, he's probably a little preoccupied with surviving his multiple brushes with death throughout the movie to really sit down and let what's happened sink in.
    • Peter is visibly shaken when he was told that his best friend George died from his head trauma...for about two seconds, then he gets back to helping the soldiers like normal. He doesn't comment on the fact again until he arranges for George to be lauded a hero in the newspaper after he got home.
    • The examples can be read as Heroic Safe Mode, as all characters need to throw themselves into practical action to survive and/or save others (and perhaps find escape from the horror and sadness of events overwhelming them in doing so).
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  • Author's Saving Throw: Nolan confirming that the film will have "little dialogue" has seemed to win over people who felt Nolan's previous films relied too much on expositionary dialogue.
  • Award Snub: Though a lot of people feel Roger Deakins deserved his Best Cinematography win, a lot are not happy about the fact that a movie that features lots of green screen and CG snubbed a movie with in-camera shots from spitfires. The same reason is why many are angered by Christopher Nolan losing Best Director to Guillermo del Toro.
  • Awesome Music: Hans Zimmer delivers once again.
    • "Supermarine" (named after the Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane) is appropriately tense in regards to both the intensity of the dogfights over the English Channel and the race against the clock the gigantic evacuation is.
    • In addition, "Home" has some of the bleakest moments in the score, suddenly cut off (when the boats arrive) by a ridiculously swelled and slowed "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations (slowed to 6 beats per minute!), one of the most quintessentially British pieces of music in the common repertoire. Home came indeed.
  • Better on DVD: For some, watching on DVD helps make sense of the Anachronic Order. Watching alone in an intimate living room also allows you to absorb the events a lot more.
  • Eight Deadly Words: Several critics complained that the minimal characterisation of the main cast had the side effect of making it hard to get invested in their story. Nolan himself commented on the lack of characterization, feeling that in a film about a major, desperate event about surviving and characters that barely know each other beyond this event, their personalities and backstories are irrelevant in the face of survival.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Surprising pretty much nobody, Farrier has emerged as the clear favorite character among many fans of the movie despite never interacting physically with a single other actor, due to being played by Tom Hardy and his feats of supreme Ace Pilot badassery like shooting down a German bomber after his plane has already run out of fuel.
    • Bolton due to being played by Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Olivier's successor as the greatest actor in the English-speaking world himself.
    • George as well. The film contributed to the already growing buzz for Barry Keoghan along with The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
  • He Really Can Act: Harry Styles - best known for his music in One Direction - was given some praise for his first acting role here.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: James D'Arcy appears to be making a habit out of starring in films about World War II events; literally the previous year he had starred in a film about the bombing of Guernica.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Among the ships that the Stuka dive bombers attack at the mole, one is clearly marked as a hospital ship in white with large red crosses. Then, as now, this was unambiguously recognised as a war crime.
  • Narm:
    • Some criticism was directed at one of the extras in the trailer, who can be seen with a (very) slight smile, which some feel goes against the somber mood.
    • One critic reported that Alex's line "He's got an accent thicker than sauerkraut sauce" took them out of the film somewhat.
    • In contrast to his good takes on the general American and Birmingham dialects, Cillian Murphy's attempt at an RP accent is a bit too over-the-top to be believablenote . It's even more glaring next to fellow Irishman Barry Keoghan's flawless accent.
  • Narm Charm: Some found the end narration, read from a newspaper, came off as corny to some, but was generally found to give the film a bittersweet, but hopeful, underscoring.
  • Older Than They Think: Dunkirk is not the first film about the battle as some claim. It was the subject of films as far as 1958's Dunkirk and 1964's Weekend at Dunkirk, as well as a rather famous oner from 2007's Atonement. Their Finest, about the creation of a WWII propaganda film about the evacuation, was released in 2016. The propaganda film in the latter also provides plenty of Hilarious in Hindsight for those who saw both same to the deliberate use of tropes that show up in Dunkirk.
  • Periphery Demographic: A large number of teenage girls and young women, not considered a typical audience for a dark World War II film, flocked to the movie thanks to the casting of Harry Styles.
  • The Scrappy: The Shivering Soldier proves to be The Load when he's rescued from his boat, causes George's death from his own paranoia and spends most of his screentime chewing out Peter and his father. Cillian Murphy's performance is also seen by some as weaker than his previous efforts.
  • Unfortunate Implications: When a book about the making of the movie came out, it revealed that parts of the scenery were made using prison labor apparently unbeknownst to the cast and crew.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Thoroughly defied by achieving almost everything in live-action. Those ships and planes? All real, barring a few exquisite replicas.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • The Heinkel bomber crew who despite successfully sinking the British vessel going around for another pass to presumably finish off the men in the water, despite losing its fighter escorts and being tailed by a Spitfire.
    • Alex and the Highlanders stubbornly trying to plug the holes leaking water into the Dutch trawler when it becomes a target practice for Germans, even when the Germans are still firing. This causes one of the Highlanders to get shot in the process, and his painful scream could've alerted the Germans that there are people inside the trawler. When this fails, they try to force one of their own off the ship to lighten the weight, even when it's clear that there's too much water leaking into the ship for that to make any difference.
    • Tommy's infantry section in the opening carelessly wanders about an urban battlefield down the middle of a street instead of at least cautiously moving from house to house to minimize their exposure. When they are promptly spotted by the Germans and fired upon, they panic and sprint along the street instead of immediately barging into the doors and windows of the buildings they were next to. Unsurprisingly, they are cut down in seconds with Tommy as the sole survivor due to the virtue of climbing over a wooden gate in time. Truth in Television, as the British Army never really developed effective urban warfare training until after the war; without their training to resort to, the recruits would likely act on their own fear and survival instinct.
      • And in that same scene, after getting over the gate, Tommy spends a solid fifteen seconds crouched in place and fumbling with his rifle, while a machine gun tears up the gate literally inches beside him. It takes him awhile to figure out he'd never win the fight, at which point he drops the rifle and runs. More to the point, he's hiding behind the non-existant protection of the wooden fence. ...Which is attached to a stone wall. Although, as above, no urban training, and he's clearly panicking.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
  • Win Back the Crowd: After The Dark Knight Rises and especially Interstellar received more divided (but still overall positive) responses, Dunkirk seems to have won back those who thought Nolan may have lost his touch, with several critics praising this film as his best one yet.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Quite a few people objected to Harry Styles being cast as a main character in Dunkirk, given that it's supposed to be a serious war movie and Styles is best known as a teenybopper pop singer. Christopher Nolan insisted he had no idea about his music career before casting him and did so solely on the strength of his audition. However, some of the initial objection disappeared after the movie came out.
  • The Woobie: Almost everyone really. War Is Hell is in full view here.

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